ATLANTA — While Amtrak started its operations in 1971, not all railroads gave up passenger service. Southern Railways’ Crescent route between New York and New Orleans was once such example.
However, by May 1978, Southern was spending $560,000 per month operating the train, which passed through Atlanta. The railroad petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission to discontinue the service, which at that point was the railroad’s only passenger route.
In 1978, 195,000 people took the train, down dramatically from the roughly 9 million who used the service during World War II.
On Dec. 13, 1978, Amtrak’s board of directors agreed to assume operations of what was the last privately operated passenger service. On Feb. 1, 1979, Amtrak assumed control of the Crescent.
“We intend to continue operating the Crescent as one of the finest long haul trains in the world,” The Associated Press quoted a district superintendent at the time as saying. Said a Southern official, according to a UPI report: “It is a sad occasion for us at Southern. We did our best to turn it around, but couldn’t do it.”
Just as Amtrak was taking over the Crescent, railroad officials were recommending that the organization shed 15,000 route miles.
The Crescent continues to run between New York and New Orleans.